New Mexico offers a myriad of experiences for the adventurous traveler, with its landscape dotted with art galleries, unique museums, and historical treasures ripe for exploration.
October visitors to Albuquerque are greeted with the awe-inspiring sight of hot air balloons painting the sky, while winter in Taos provides the perfect backdrop for skiing enthusiasts. The state radiates an undeniable authenticity, steeped in cultural heritage that beckons those pursuing a spiritual journey or simply a connection to the American Southwest.
Travelers seeking travel inspiration will find that New Mexico’s rich tapestry of experiences ranges from the adobe-lined streets of Santa Fe to the otherworldly desert vistas. The region’s archaeological sites stand as a testament to its historical significance, inviting exploration into America’s past.
As one traverses the state, the spirit of adventure is sated with every discovery, from the echoing depths of Carlsbad Caverns to the tranquil serenity of White Sands National Park. New Mexico is not just a destination. It’s an invitation to immerse oneself in a unique blend of beauty and history.
What We Cover
- 1. Albuquerque
- 2. Four Corners Monument
- 3. Santa Rosa Blue Hole
- 4. Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument
- 5. New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science
- 6. Petroglyph National Monument
- 7. Santa Fe National Forest
- 8. Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railway
- 9. Bandelier National Monument
- 10. Millicent Rogers Museum
- 11. International UFO Museum and Research Center
- 12. Chaco Culture National Historical Park
- 13. Carlsbad Caverns National Park
- 14. Pecos National Historical Park
- 15. White Sands National Park
- 16. Sadie’s of New Mexico
- 17. Taos
- 18. Wildlife West Nature Park
- 19. Georgia O’Keeffe Museum
- 20. Wheeler Peak
- Tours in New Mexico
- What is the best thing to do with kids in New Mexico?
- What are some things to do in New Mexico on a budget?
- What is the best time of year to visit New Mexico?
- Most significant landmark – White Sands National Park
- Park to visit – Pecos National Historical Park
- Free activity – Petroglyph National Monument
- Activity for kids – New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science
- Activity for adults – Taos Ski Valley
- Place to eat – Sadie’s of New Mexico
- Nightlife – Downtown Albuquerque
- Place to stay – La Fonda on the Plaza
One of the top things to do in New Mexico is to explore Downtown Albuquerque. Nestled near the Sandia Mountains, Albuquerque is enticed by its eclectic blend of cultural offerings and natural beauty.
Travelers may climb the mountains by hiking or opt for the Sandia Peak Tramway, which spans about 2.7 miles to the crest and offers panoramic views. This spirited and historic area is brimming with things to see and do, making it the perfect place to spend a day or two on vacation.
Start your exploration of Downtown Albuquerque at the Old Town Plaza, the city’s historic center featuring art galleries, eateries, and boutiques housed within the adobe structures of Historic Old Town, the city’s cultural heart.
The Albuquerque Museum showcases an array of exhibitions reflecting the region’s rich history. Here, you can take various tours of the city or join a wine and art tour and gaze upon the works of local artists before learning about the history of Albuquerque at the museum.
In the realm of events, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in October stands out as a photographer’s dream, with over 500 balloons painting the sky. This nine-day affair is not merely a spectacle of colors.
The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta includes interactive experiences such as balloon rides, educational exhibits, and unique evening events as the balloon glows, creating an otherworldly ambiance as dusk falls.
For those seeking a tangible connection to the traditions of New Mexico, the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center and the living community of Taos Pueblo provide profound insights into the indigenous cultures. And, of course, fans of the hit series Breaking Bad will enjoy a tour of Albuquerque’s Breaking Bad filming locations.
2. Four Corners Monument
Address: 597 NM-597, Teec Nos Pos, AZ 86514
One of the best places to visit in New Mexico and a famous monument of the Southwest, the Four Corners National Monument is where visitors can stand in four US states at once. This national historic landmark is where the Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah borders meet.
It’s a prominent spot for photos and a great souvenir of your trip to New Mexico or any other three states. Four Corners National Monument is open year-round, 24 hours a day. A small gift shop is on-site, where visitors can purchase jewelry and pottery from the Navajo Nation.
I recommend looking through the gift shop; the locals are amiable and have some great things to share about their culture. And they spend hours and hours creating stuff like pottery by hand, so it’s great to be able to support their craft.
See Related: Most Famous Historic Landmarks in the USA
3. Santa Rosa Blue Hole
Address: 1085 Blue Hole Rd, Santa Rosa, NM 88435
New Mexico can get pretty hot, especially in the summer months. If you want to cool off, head to the Santa Rosa Blue Hole. This natural swimming hole is located in the small town of Santa Rosa and is a popular spot to visit for locals and tourists.
The water in the Blue Hole is a refreshing 68 degrees year-round, making it the perfect place to take a dip, no matter the time of year. The hole is about 78 feet deep, making it great for diving and cliff jumping.
Santa Rosa Blue Hole is also a prominent spot for scuba diving and snorkeling. A training center is located on-site, making it an exceptional place to learn how to dive. In addition to swimming, the Santa Rosa Blue Hole is a notorious fishing spot. Anglers can expect to find goldfish, koi, carp, and crawdads.
You can revel in the spectacular views if you’re not keen on swimming or fishing. The cliffs and trees encompassing the hole make it a charming place to unwind. It’s one of the best to visit in the summer; be sure to bring your swimsuit and sunscreen.
See Related: Best Tropical Vacation Spots in the World
4. Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument
Address: 26 Jim Bradford Trail, Mimbres, NM 88049
Visitors to the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, positioned about 45 miles north of Silver City, step into a world where the Mogollon culture flourished over a millennium ago. The area’s main attraction, the cliff dwellings, were constructed in the late 13th century.
Visitor Center Features:
- Museum exhibiting Mogollon artifacts
- Educational film on park history
- Display on the Chiricahua Apache
- Bookstore (2 miles from Visitor Center)
- Starting point for the Cliff Dwellings Trail
Exploration and Activities:
- One-mile Cliff Dwellings Trail
- Camping, hiking, and fishing in Gila National Forest
At this destination, travelers can immerse themselves in the legacy of the ancient inhabitants and uncover the beauty of the encompassing landscape. The monument not only provides a glimpse into a rich cultural past but offers a variety of experiences in the vast wilderness surrounding it.
See Related: Best Family Road Trips in the US
5. New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science
Address: 1801 Mountain Rd NW, Albuquerque, NM 87104
One of the best things to see in New Mexico with kids or those interested in science is the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. It has excellent permanent and temporary exhibits, including Fossilworks, the Naturalist Center, Chocolate: The Exhibition, Roving With Perseverance, Mars: Science and Culture, and Back to Bones, among many others.
The museum has many educational opportunities, from Youth and Family Programs to Adult Programs and School Programs. Junior Docents is part of the Youth and Family Programs and is perfect for teens. Mineral Monday and Science Story Time are also part of this program.
For the adults, there are several lectures, presentations, and adult field trips, including the Birds of the Bosque del Apache. On this field trip, you’ll join the museum staff on a day-long journey and see thousands of birds at New Mexico’s world-famous refuge south of Socorro.
The museum is open Wednesday through Monday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for visitation and is closed on Tuesday. The museum is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.
6. Petroglyph National Monument
Address: 6510 Western Trail NW, Albuquerque, NM 87120
Regarding what to do in New Mexico, the Petroglyph National Monument is one of the state’s must-visit landmarks. This famous national monument is home to an estimated 24,000-plus petroglyphs created by the Native Americans who once populated the area.
Several trails meander through the petroglyphs, offering additional and excellent views of the Rio Grande Valley and the Albuquerque skyline.
Visitors to the monument can also join a Ranger-led or self-guided tour. As always, check with the NPS for the most up-to-date information on park hours, closures, and tours.
The Boca Negra Canyon Trail is the most popular and easy hike for all ages. All of the park’s trails are open year-round. The petroglyph viewing trail systems (Boca Negra, Rinconada, and Piedras Marcadas Canyons) are a 1- to 6-mile drive from the visitor center, depending on the trail.
Each trail has different hours of operation, so it’s best to check with the National Park Service for the most up-to-date information.
7. Santa Fe National Forest
Location: Los Alamos, NM 87544
The Santa Fe National Forest is sublime and breathtaking, covering mountains, valleys, and mesas. This national forest was founded in 1915 and extended over 1.6 million acres of northern New Mexico.
The forest is home to abundant wildlife, including mule deer, elk, turkey, black bear, mountain lion, and bighorn sheep. In addition to hiking, the Santa Fe National Forest is also an excellent place for horseback riding, picnicking, fishing, or pitching a tent.
The Santa Fe National Forest is also home to a divergency of scenic drives, including the Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway. This byway offers sensational views of the forest and is a great way to see everything the Santa Fe National Forest offers.
See Related: Best Camping Spots in the World
8. Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railway
Address: 500 Terrace Ave, Chama, NM 87520
Another one of New Mexico’s National Historic Monuments, the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railway, is a must-visit for anyone who loves trains. The railway is 64 miles long and takes you through some of the most magnificent landscapes in New Mexico.
The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railway offers various rides and tours, so there’s something for everyone. The most prominent ride is the full-day excursion, which takes guests on a round-trip journey through the mountains. The tour includes a stop in the historic town of Osier, where vacationers can explore the old buildings and learn about the town’s past.
If you’re looking for family-friendly things to do in New Mexico, the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railway is a dynamite choice. The railway offers a kids’ ride, a shorter version of the full-day excursion.
And there’s also a dinner train ride where guests can enjoy a delightful meal as they travel through the mountains. It’s a great way to see the beautiful scenery of the state and a lot of fun for train lovers.
9. Bandelier National Monument
Address: 15 Entrance Rd, Los Alamos, NM 87544
Bandelier National Monument is a national park of over 33,000 acres in the Jemez Mountains of northern New Mexico. The park’s primary attraction is the ruins of the ancient Pueblo people who lived here from 1150 to 1500 AD. The park also has various hiking trails, wildlife, and stunning views.
Begin at the monument’s visitor center, where you can watch an orientation film, pick up a monument map, and learn about many things to see and do in the park. From there, you can hike to the ruins of the ancient Pueblos or go for a scenic hike through the canyon.
The NPS offers Ranger-led programs and guided daily tours, such as the Main Pueblo Loop Trail Tour and the Backcountry Get Outdoors Hike. An experienced Ranger will lead you during both activities.
Bandelier National Monument is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and is closed on certain public holidays. Like most national parks, if you’re interested in planning a visit, it’s best to stay up-to-date by visiting the National Park Service’s Plan Your Visit page.
10. Millicent Rogers Museum
Address: 1504 Millicent Rogers Rd, El Prado, NM 87529
Visitors to the Millicent Rogers Museum will be engrossed in 15 different galleries, as the museum is home to over 7,000 objects that reveal the arts, history, and cultures of the Southwest. As such, the Millicent Rogers Museum is a must-visit for anyone fascinated with the yesteryear of the area.
The museum is eponymously named after Millicent Rogers, an heiress born in New York but relocated to Taos, New Mexico, in the 1940s. Rogers was an antiquarian of Native American jewelry and art and was passionate about the culture of the Southwest. Rogers accumulated a wide range of objects during her lifetime, and after her death, her collection was bequeathed to the museum.
In addition to the art and jewelry collections, the Millicent Rogers Museum also has an assortment of pottery from the Pueblo people. The museum offers a range of educational programs, including classes on making pottery and jewelry.
See Related: Best Places to Travel in Your 20s in the US
11. International UFO Museum and Research Center
Address: 114 N Main St, Roswell, NM 88203
Roswell, New Mexico, is the site of the infamous 1947 UFO incident. The location speaks for itself. This event was, and still often is, a highly debated topic, and there are many theories about what happened that day.
Did aliens crash a UFO? A weather balloon? Or was it a cover-up by the government? The actual truth is still unknown, though we bet some people are in the know of what happened. But that doesn’t stop people from continuing to speculate.
This controversial event has been shrouded in mystery and endless conspiracy theories for over 70 years, so it’s no surprise that it’s one of the most popular New Mexico tourist attractions.
The International UFO Museum and Research Center in Roswell is dedicated to educating the public about what has become known as “The Roswell Incident.” In addition, the UFO Museum and Research Center strives to be the leading information source in history, science, and research about UFO events worldwide.
The museum features exhibits with information about the incident and other famous UFO sightings and encounters worldwide. The International UFO Museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with closures on certain public holidays.
12. Chaco Culture National Historical Park
Address: 1808 County Road 7950, Nageezi, NM 87037
Yet another remarkable park of New Mexico, Chaco Culture National Historical Park, is located in the northwestern part of the state. It was first tenanted by the ancient Pueblo peoples over one thousand years ago and later served as a sizable cultural center for the Anasazi people.
The park has various ruins, including North America’s largest concentration of ancestral Puebloan great houses. The Chaco Culture National Historical Park offers a variety of activities for visitors.
There are quite a few hiking trails throughout the park, as well as Ranger-led tours of the ruins. The park also offers stargazing programs and astronomy presentations. With over 10,000 stars visible from the garden, it’s a marvelous place to enjoy the night sky.
Chaco Culture National Historical Park is one of the best places to visit in New Mexico for history and culture buffs. The Park also offers picnicking and camping opportunities for those who want to appreciate the region’s beauty more. Camping slots fill up quickly, so make a reservation in advance.
13. Carlsbad Caverns National Park
Address: 727 Carlsbad Caverns Highway, Carlsbad, NM 88220
Carlsbad Caverns National Park is in the Chihuahuan Desert in southern New Mexico. The main draw of the park, hidden beneath the surface of the desert, is its more than 119 caves. These intricate caves were formed when sulfuric acid dissolved limestone, leaving behind caverns of all sizes just waiting to be explored.
Carlsbad Caverns also features a large limestone chamber known as the Big Room, the largest chamber in North America and the 31st largest in the world! This room alone stretches over 4,000 feet, 625 feet wide, and 255 feet high at its highest point.
Park visitors can explore this intricate cave system on the National Park Service (NPS) guided tours. A tour of the King’s Palace is a 1.5-hour ranger-guided tour through four highly decorated chambers that will take you into the deepest portion of the cavern open to the public, 830 feet beneath the desert surface.
The caverns are home to many bats (currently 17 different species), many other types of animals, including birds and fish, and over 600 insects. The park is open year-round but has closures on various holidays, so it’s best to check with the NPS when planning your visit.
See Related: National Parks to Visit in November
14. Pecos National Historical Park
Address: Ancestral Sites Trail, Pecos, NM 87552
Another park that the NPS operates is Pecos National Historical Park. Pecos Pueblo, a long-abandoned Native American community, is the largest single entity on the site, which helps tell the story of those who inhabited the area for over two thousand years.
The park includes six different places: the Pecos Ruins, Victorio Peak Trail, Glorieta Pass Battlefield, Santa Fe National Historic Trail, Forked Lightning Ranch, and the Pecos River.
The Pecos Ruins are the main allurement of the park and are some of the best-preserved Pueblo ruins in the country. The site includes a medley of structures, such as kivas (underground ceremonial chambers), a theater, and a great kiva (a large, communal structure). Visitors can explore the ruins independently or take a Ranger-led tour like many other parks run by the NPS.
The Victorio Peak Trail is a popular hiking trail that offers jaw-dropping views of the Pecos Valley. For those interested in the area’s history, the Glorieta Pass Battlefield is the site of a Civil War battle in 1862.
The park has varied summer and winter hours, so it’s best to stay up-to-date through the National Park Service when planning your trip to the park.
See Related: Best Father-Son Trips & Vacation Ideas
15. White Sands National Park
Address: 19955 US-70, Alamogordo, NM 88310
White Sands National Park is another stunning natural wonder and famous landmark to visit in New Mexico. This unique national park is home to the largest gypsum dune field in the world, as well as a variety of trails for hiking and exploring plant life and wildlife such as foxes, rodents, coyotes, bobcats, badgers, rabbits, and porcupines.
The park covers 227 square miles and is surrounded by the White Sands Missile Range. Composed of giant, white dunes constantly shifting and moving, these famous dunes spawned thousands of years ago by the wind catching and blowing sand and gypsum crystals from the nearby mountains.
Today, White Sands National Park is the largest gypsum dune field on Earth, with dunes as tall as 60 feet and as deep as 30 feet underground.
Visitors to White Sands can sled down the dunes, hike, or enjoy the unique landscape. Several picnic tables, a playground, and restroom facilities are available.
White Sands National Park is the most visited NPS site in New Mexico, so be aware that it can get crowded during peak times. March and July are the two busiest months for the dunes, but you’ll find visitors here all year round.
16. Sadie’s of New Mexico
Address: 6230 4th St NW Lot, Los Ranchos De Albuquerque, NM 87107
A foray into the Southwest would not be well-executed without sampling some of the region’s Mexican cuisine. Sadie’s of New Mexico is just the place to do that. Serving savory Mexican food since 1954, Sadie’s is now one of the most prominent eateries in the state.
The menu features all your favorite Mexican dishes, like enchiladas, tacos, burritos, and more. And, of course, no meal at Sadie’s would be complete without a margarita.
They’re known for their delicious frozen margaritas, which come in various flavors. The Fried Green Chile Strips and Chile Con Queso are to die for, and the portions are colossal, so come hungry.
Sadie’s is only in Albuquerque, but they have multiple locations around the city. The restaurant can get pretty busy, especially during peak times like lunch and dinner, so be sure to call ahead or make a reservation if you can.
See Related: Best Restaurants in Santa Fe, New Mexico
Address: 116 Sutton Pl, Taos Ski Valley, NM 87525
We imagine winter activities aren’t the first thing that comes to mind when considering New Mexico. However, Taos Ski Valley is one of the best places to visit for outdoor adventures.
Known as one of the top ski destinations in the US, the resort is in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. It offers a variety of things to do, including skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing, and tubing.
Taos Ski Valley also has a unique program called Ski Week, where you can join in on a fully immersive week-long ski experience. Their Ski Week is a great way to focus on enhancing your ski or riding skills. Participants can join a group to meet new friends or experience Taos’ Ski Weeks via a private lesson.
Taos has a variety of tickets and price options depending on your age and what activities you’ll be engaging in. So it’s best to stay up-to-date by visiting their ticket page while making your plans.
Taos Ski Valley offers several lodging options, from hotels and condos to vacation rentals. We recommend Alpine Village Suites, located at the ski area’s base. This hotel offers ski-in/ski-out access, a heated pool, hot tubs, and more.
See Related: Most Beautiful Valleys in the US
18. Wildlife West Nature Park
Address: 87 N Frontage Rd, Edgewood, NM 87015
Wildlife West Nature Park is great to see some of New Mexico’s native animals. Guests to the preserve can meet Foxie, a red fox, and Thunder, a pronghorn, the newest baby rescues at Wildlife West Nature Park in Edgewood.
Visitors will have a rare opportunity to experience these new wildlife babies and the other 20 native species in their natural habitats. In addition to the above-mentioned new arrivals, visitors will have the chance to meet Bert, a Great Horned Owl; Tonto, a Pronghorn Antelope; Max, a Caracara; Oreo, a raccoon, as well as several others.
The park’s knowledgeable and caring staff will demonstrate how to interact with animals safely and what to do if you encounter one in the wild. With a particular focus on animal rescue efforts, protection, and conservation, Wildlife West Nature Park will provide an experience to remember.
19. Georgia O’Keeffe Museum
Address: 217 Johnson St, Santa Fe, NM 87501
Another popular New Mexico tourist attraction is the famous Georgia O’Keeffe Museum of Santa Fe, dedicated to the eponymous American artist. The museum’s collection includes thousands of O’Keeffe’s works and an assortment of her personal belongings.
The museum also offers several programs and other activities, including art classes, workshops, and various learning activities for kids, such as Build Your Dream Home, Outside My Window, Seasonal Landscapes, and Exploring Watercolor With Different Techniques, among many others.
The museum in Santa Fe is open Thursday through Monday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. We recommend checking out this walking tour and museum entry combination ticket, including your entry to the O’Keeffe Museum and a guided walking tour through Santa Fe.
For an easy place to stay within walking distance of the museum, we recommend La Fonda on the Plaza, centrally located with Santa Fe mountain views, an outdoor pool, a rooftop hot tub and spa, and more. If you prefer your space, try one of the many modern vacation rental homes in Santa Fe.
20. Wheeler Peak
Address: Twining Blue Lake Pack Trail, Taos Ski Valley, NM 87525
Standing at over 13,000 feet above sea level, Wheeler Peak is the tallest mountain in New Mexico and a prodigious place to hike. The summit of Wheeler Peak offers dazzling views of the neighboring area, and the trail to the top is a 6-mile round-trip hike. The course is considered to be challenging and will take you about 5.5 hours to finish.
Wheeler Peak is in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and part of the Wheeler Peak Wilderness Area. The wilderness is home to a medley of wildlife, including marmots, pikas, elk, mule deer, and golden eagles.
Wheeler Peak is open year-round, but the best time to hike is from June to September when the weather is warm and the snow has melted. The trail can be pretty icy in winter, so use caution if you hike during that time. There is no fee to hike Wheeler Peak, but there is a $5 parking fee if you park in the designated parking area.
See Related: Travel Tips for Visiting Mexico on a Budget
Tours in New Mexico
Looking for an unforgettable adventure in Albuquerque? Then look no further than a hot air balloon ride over the Rio Grande Valley! Imagine floating peacefully through the sky, taking in the stunning views of the valley below. With experienced FAA licensed pilots, you can be sure you're in safe hands. And with flights available at both sunrise and sunset, there's plenty of opportunity to catch that perfect photograph. So why not give it a try?
Looking to discover the history and culture of Santa Fe? Then this self-guided audio walking tour is perfect for you! Visit historic sites and hidden gems at your own pace, and learn about the 400-year history of this fascinating city. Hear stories about famous artists like Georgia O'Keeffe, and see the oldest church in the United States. Discover the scientists of the Manhattan Project and the Santa Fe Trail. With this tour, you'll get a real sense of what makes Santa Fe such a unique and special place.
New Mexico is a state rich in history, and there is no better way to experience that history than by taking a Ghost Tour of Old Town Albuquerque. For over two hundred years, people have been living, dying, and haunting the square. On this tour, you will learn about the many ghosts who call Old Town home. Legends, folklore, ghost stories, and history come to life as you depart on an intriguing excursion through 313 years of haunted history.
What is the best thing to do with kids in New Mexico?
Visiting the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science is an attractive choice for younger children. This museum features displays and exhibits on dinosaurs, space, and the intriguing history of New Mexico. Older children may get a kick out of a ride on the Sandia Peak Tramway, which takes them to the top of Sandia Mountain.
What are some things to do in New Mexico on a budget?
There are several free or relatively inexpensive things to do here. One option is to swing by the Aztec Ruins National Monument, which is free to enter. Another option is to hike on one of the multitudes of trails throughout the state.
What is the best time of year to visit New Mexico?
The optimum time of year to visit New Mexico depends on what you want to do while you’re in the state. If you’re keen on outdoor activities, the summer months are a great choice, but this is the peak tourist season. If you’re looking to avoid the crowds, the shoulder seasons of spring and fall, especially March and April, or October or November, are a good choice.